Hibernian moved three points clear at the top of the Scottish Premiership following a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Dundee United.
The Easter Road men’s victory means they maintain their 100 per cent winning start to the campaign and have for the first time since 1974 won their opening three fixtures in the top-flight.
Christian Doidge proved to be the matchwinner with a clinical finish from a tight angle midway through the second half.
Hibs certainly did enough to earn the victory, however, they had to withstand a late rally from the home side. As Dundee United piled on the pressure, the defence stood up to be counted, so much so that goalkeeper Ofir Marciano had just one shot to deal with all evening.
Jack Ross unsurprisingly kept faith with the same starting XI that defeated Livingston so comprehensively at the weekend.
The opening exchanges were full-blooded and there was early concern for both sides following a nasty clash of heads between Paul McGinn and Jamie Robson. Both players were fully committed and whilst McGinn returned to the action following treatment, Robson failed to recover and was replaced by Adrian Sporle.
With both teams cancelling out one another there was little in the way of goalmouth action.
The first real effort at goal from either side came in the 18th minute when Hibs youngster Josh Doig collected a pass from Daryl Horgan before peeling off the left flank and letting fly with a right-foot shot from distance that drifted wide of goal.
That was it in terms of opportunities until shortly before half-time when Dundee United won a couple of free kicks on the edge of the Hibs penalty box. Nicky Clark took both with each ending over the crossbar – the first via a deflection from the visitors’ defensive well and the second direct from Clark’s boot.
Dundee United’s extra numbers in the middle of the park nullified Hibs creative players with the Easter Road men finding openings harder to come by than in recent weeks.
Ross’ side finished the half on top with Peter Pawlett just getting back in time to head behind and prevent Martin Boyle getting on the end of a deep cross from Horgan’s delivery.
From the corner kick the ball found its way to Horgan only for the Irishman’s rising effort to go over the crossbar.
After the interval slack play from Pawlett was pounced on by Doidge as Hibs counter-attacked, he fed strike partner Kevin Nisbet, who shot for goal only to be blocked by the sliding frame of Ryan Edwards.
Ian Harkes had a terrific opportunity at the other end when he was picked out on the edge of the box by Luke Bottom, with the goal opening up in front of him the United man dragged his shot wide of goal.
Hibs were soon back on the offensive with a stunning run from Boyle opening up the Dundee United rearguard. The winger’s cutback was hooked goalward by Nisbet with Siegrist saving and Mark Connolly clearing before Doidge could pounce.
The Easter Road men were enjoying their best spell in the match and there was little surprise when they broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. Alex Gogic’s cross was flicked into the path of Doig, he had the ball taken off his toes by Doidge who slammed a powerful finish into the roof of the net from a tight angle past two United defenders and goalkeeper Siegrist at his near post.
It was the Welshman’s second goal of the campaign and his fifth in just three meetings against Dundee United in recent seasons.
Hibs went in search of a second goal to make their lead more comfortable with Nisbet’s shot on the turn forcing a save from Siegrist, who dived to his left to gather.
As expected, the home side rallied in the closing stages with Harkes’ low, driven effort from the edge of the box bringing out Marciano’s first and only save of note after 74 minutes.
Logan Chalmers and Calum Butcher both had efforts deflected wide of goal as the Hibs defence put their bodies on the line to defend their slender lead.
With seven minutes remaining Louis Appere’s flick-on released Pawlett in behind the Hibs defence and with only Marciano to beat. The former Aberdeen attacker should have done better but lacked composure at the crucial moment as he volleyed wide of goal.
Dundee United threw a lot of balls into the Hibs box in the closing stages, however the Hibees’ defence stood resolute.
After back-to-back away victories league leaders Hibernian are back in action this Saturday when they host Motherwell at Easter Road.
Dundee United: Siegrist, Edwards (Neilson 67), Connolly, Reynolds, Robson (Sporle 8), Pawlett, Butcher, Harkes, Bolton (Chalmers 73), Clark (Smith 73), Appere. Unused subs: Deniz, Powers, King, Glass, Freeman.
Hibernian: Marciano, McGinn, Porteous, Hanlon, Doig, Boyle, Gogic, Newell (Hallberg 77), Horgan (Allan 56), Doidge, Nisbet. Unused subs: Dabrowski, Gray, McGregor, Stevenson, Stirling, Murray, Gullan.
Referee: Don Robertson.
Report: Richard Payne.
Image: Alan Rennie.